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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Blackouts at IIT Kharagpur: Initiative rolled out to engage students, help them deal with depression; but is it enough? - First Post

By Ila Ananya
In April this year, at the end of her four years at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur, 23-year-old Arushi Kesarwani saw something that she had rarely seen in her time there. At exactly 7 pm, the electricity was turned off, deliberately.

She remembers that some exams had ended that day. And now suddenly, there were no lights and no WiFi, so instead of sitting in their rooms and working as they usually did, students came out of their hostels in large numbers and spent their time doing nothing in particular. Some were playing antakshari. Many of them were walking around campus, and some were sitting in small groups outside their hostels, chatting and laughing loudly. Kesarwani walked around the stadium with her friends, listening to a DJ who was playing music there. “There was big junta there and it was fun,” she says laughing.

When the electricity was turned on 40 minutes later, everyone went back to their hostels and continued with what was left of their day. But Kesarwani remembers thinking that being outside like that felt different. She had got caught up on other things, other than assignments and reading.

This decision for a deliberate blackout came after the painfully sad stories of three students from the campus committing suicide this year (there have been two more suicides at IIT Delhi), obviously telling of a deep problem in educational institutions that we’ve known exists, but have never stopped to seriously address, perhaps until this year.

The perceived success of this one-day event at IIT Kharagpur convinced authorities that they should bust out impromptu decisions like this more often. The institute, in what is being seen as an unusual move, has decided to make these blackouts a regular practice.

Students say that the blackout/digital Sabbath is not yet an everyday session as a lot of websites have reported. But hostel wardens are going to turn the power off for an hour occasionally (“not to save electricity or cut costs,” Hindustan Timessaid helpfully), encouraging students to leave their rooms, devices and books and go out and talk to their friends. As Manish Bhattacharya, the dean of student affairs at IIT Kharagpur put it, this rule is for every student. “Once the lights are turned off, all the students are expected to come out of their room. Normally those students who spend maximum time in their room and do not interact with others, they are also forced to come out of their room and mingle with others,” he told Quartz.

When I first told friends about IIT Kharagpur’s new idea, most of them laughed. Some of the comedy came from us not having any idea what these sessions would be like — would students simply be forced to sit in the courtyard of their hostels and talk to each other while their warden watched over them? Would they go to sleep? Would they rather work?

Satinder Kaur, who is in her second year at the college clears up quite a bit of my confusion about the logistics. She says the blackout happened once (in April), where students were encouraged to go to the stadium on their campus while a DJ played music there. It hasn’t happened again since then, but Kaur has heard this is going to be done once a month, starting in the new academic year.

To Kesarwani, her college’s decision to have such sessions instinctively seems like a good idea. “When you start talking to your friends, there’s a very high chance you’ll realise that they’re going through something similar, or that they’re facing the same kind of pressures. It’s a reminder that these things will pass too,” she says. She believes they’re important conversations, especially when you’re in such a competitive place with hardly ever a moment when you don't come under pressure. And that pressure doesn’t have to be only academic. 

We saw this in the disturbing death of Manjula Devak, a 29 year-old IIT-Delhi PhD scholar who killed herself late last month, who was harangued for dowry by her in-laws. But the Kharagpur initiative hasn't necessarily found a lot of takers.
The idea of being encouraged to go listen to a DJ at the college stadium makes Kaur uncomfortable. “There are too many people,” she says, and that’s not her idea of fun. At the April event, she had stayed back in the hostel courtyard with her friends and had her own fun there. What was nice was having that alone time with them.

Kaur doesn’t think having an evening like this, where there is a DJ night, is necessarily a solution to depression and stress; she says people who are depressed aren’t going to go for the DJ night, and seeing a counsellor on campus would work better. 

Kesarwani herself knows students who say that they’d much rather be finishing their work, since the assignment deadlines aren’t going to go away. Even at the one day event in April, some people were irritated because the electricity was turned on after 40 minutes (rather than 30, like they’d been informed).

“It’s (the blackout) something we’ve been thinking about too,” says Prerna Singh, who’s in her final year at IIT Gandhinagar and will graduate later this year. But like Kaur, Singh isn’t so sure, and nor are her friends. “Most students were concerned about the time to finish their submissions,” Singh says. Then, after a pause, she adds to what has seemed a bit comical to everyone outside of the IITs reading about the enforced socialising aspect of this rule, “We aren’t so sure about this idea of a forced interaction either. What if someone just prefers keeping to themselves?” What they would like to see are more open spaces for people to interact in, places that they’d automatically add to their daily rhythm and visit with friends.

According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, there were 8,934 student suicides in 2015. Of these, 2.8 percent were at the graduate level (including IITs). Back in April, various IITs across the country had suddenly woken up to the growing number of student suicides when an IIT Council met to discuss new initiatives that would help students deal with stress and depression.

The solutions ranged from the more standard parent-teacher meetings and counselling at IIT Delhi, to the setting up of centres for music, dance and art at IIT Guwahati, and then extended to less common initiatives like tree hugging, alternative therapy, and Reiki (with courses on the “theory and practice of happiness”) at IIT Kharagpur. They’re different from initiatives that some institutions abroad have taken — following multiple suicides in 2015, University of Pennsylvania for instance started a blog for students to discuss problems related to mental health, started a peer counselling programme, and encouraged the posting on “ugly selfies” on Instagram as a response to the perfectionism otherwise expected of students. 

In the same year, many colleges in the United States also showed a travelling exhibit to students, where over a 1,000 empty backpacks were arranged with stories and photographs of students who had committed suicide.

I went to a boarding school that had what we called 'Asthachal' every evening. We’d all climb up to a spot, and everybody would sit down, some on rocks and some under trees, and we would all watch the sunset in silence. It was calming in a way that not many other things were. IIT Kharagpur is probably right in choosing to give its students breaks like these, but perhaps institutions need to think beyond them. Colleges would do better if they asked students what they’d like, because they’re the ones dealing with the pressure to stay afloat and appear like they have every aspect of their lives together. And to most, IIT Kharagpur’s plan is welcome but not enough.

The Ladies Finger (TLF) is a leading online women’s magazine delivering fresh and witty perspectives on politics, culture, health, sex, work and everything in between.

Published Date: Jun 26, 2017 07:48 pm | Updated Date: Jun 26, 2017 07:57 pm

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Students stressed, IIT-Delhi considers online counselling - Indian Express

Two suicide-related incidents this year prompt move. On May 30, PhD scholar Manjula Devak was found hanging in her room. The IIT Director, however, had said cited “personal problems” as the reason. In March, a first year student had allegedly jumped from the hostel building, but survived. Some peers had alleged it was due to academic stress.

Written by Aranya Shankar | New Delhi | Published:June 23, 2017 4:48 am

The institute is in talks with a service provider. (Archive)

Following A suicide and an attempted suicide on its campus, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi is considering starting free online counselling from the next semester. The institute is in talks with a service provider for the same, officials said, adding that it would be in addition to its existing counselling services. According to officials, suicidal tendencies could be a result of stress due to academic pressure. On May 30, PhD scholar Manjula Devak was found hanging in her room. The IIT Director, however, had said cited “personal problems” as the reason. In March, a first year student had allegedly jumped from the hostel building, but survived. Some peers had alleged it was due to academic stress.

Speaking about the initiative, Associate Dean, Student Welfare Sangeeta Kohli said, “We currently have more than 1,000 students attending counselling sessions and just three counsellors. They sit five days a week from 9.30 am to 5 pm and their schedules are packed. We’re in talks to start online counselling from the next semester. This would help in reaching out to more students, since many don’t come because of the stigma attached with seeking psychological help.” She said the institute had taken inspiration from IIT-Madras — which was the first to start such a service among the IITs — through a tie up with YourDOST, an emotional wellness platform. She said, if finalised, the service would give students the option to chat online with therapists.

Dean, Students Affairs, T R Sreekrishnan said the number of students seeking counselling has been “consistently growing” in the last few years. Kohli said first year students, in particular, found it difficult to handle the academic pressure. “Students work very hard to get into IIT, and then they want to relax. They don’t realise that they need to at least keep some minimum pace (to keep up)… There is so much freedom in the hostels that suddenly they’re not able to handle it,” she said.

“In the first semester, particularly, many of them don’t know how to handle it. Once they don’t perform well, they start feeling the pressure… They try to escape this mental stress because they don’t know how to handle it. Some stop attending classes… The situation gets worse and stress builds up. It becomes a vicious circle,” Kohli added. The Dean also pointed out that “overindulgence” in extra-curricular activities by some students could also cause problems. “There are so many extra-curricular activities… So they start focusing too much on that and start neglecting academics,” he said.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Lights Out: How IIT Kharagpur is responding to increasing occurrences of student suicides - Indian Express

Recently Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur has taken to turning off the power for an hour every evening.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: June 21, 2017 4:08 pm

The matter of student suicides is a real threat that educational institutes must cope with proactively. Recently Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur has taken to turning off the power for an hour every evening. This is not to cut costs or save electricity, but to encourage students to take a break from increasingly secluded hostel lives driven by virtual lives on laptops and internet, and instead come outside and socialise with one another over tea and coffee. The idea behind this is to counter seclusion and isolation which contribute to feelings of anxiety. By mid-2017, IIT Kharagpur has already seen three students, including an M. Tech student, commit suicide.

Once the lights are turned off, all the students are expected to come out of their room. Normally those students who spend maximum time in their room and do not interact with others, they are also forced to come out of their room and mingle with others,” Manish Bhattacharjee, Dean of students affairs at IIT Kharagpur, told Quartz.

Across the country, IITs have seen a rash of suicides and attempts and depression is frequently quoted as a leading cause. According to the National Crime Bureau Report, in 2015, 8,934 students committed suicide and according of another report in 2012, the suicide rate in India is among the highest in the world, a large portion of which is in the age group 15-29. As the mental health crisis is making itself felt among students, the institutes have been jolted into taking some preventive measures. The approaches are various, multi-pronged and they aim to make student lives more wholesome, while providing ways to manage stress, the prime source of which seems to be work pressure and an intensely competitive climate for grades and placements.

It has included making parent-teacher meetings part of the curriculum and making more counselling facilities available to students, which have generally been inadequate so far. IIT Kharagpur, for instance, has a dedicated Facebook page where counsellors are available 24×7. In 2016, 3000 out of total 11000 students are known to have reached out for help over it. The institute also set up the Rekhi Centre of Excellence for the Science of Happiness last year which organises workshops and talks about the science, theory and practice of happiness and well being. In IIT Guwahati, a performance arts facility called ‘Center for Creativity’ has been opened where students can dance, sing and play musical instruments. Tree-hugging sessions and communication with alumni who have dealt with depression have also been organised and facilitated.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

India’s top IIT has an unusual solution to tackle student depression: Turn off the power - Quartz

June 20, 2017 Quartz India

Lonely and despondent. (AP/Saurabh Das)

One of India’s best engineering colleges is working to prevent student suicides by pulling them out of loneliness and depression. The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur, wants students to interact more with each other instead of living cocooned lives on campus. And to nudge them towards this, hostel authorities simply switch off the power in the evenings.
Every evening, an hour of blackout is imposed in the hostels so that the occupants come out of their rooms, leaving behind their laptops and the internet, at least briefly, and bond with their peers.

“Once the lights are turned off, all the students are expected to come out of their room. Normally those students who spend maximum time in their room and do not interact with others, they are also forced to come out of their room and mingle with others,” Manish Bhattacharya, dean, students affairs at IIT Kharagpur, told Quartz in an email.

This is expected to create a healthy social life on campus to potentially tackle depression, which intensifies with seclusion. Such depression, along with academic pressure, is said to be a major cause for instances of student suicide in India.

In 2015 alone (the latest year for which official data is available), 8,934 students committed suicide in the country, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). About 2.8% of these incidents were at the graduate education level, which includes IIT students.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of students compete for a handful of seats at these premier engineering colleges. This intense competition continues even after securing seats, given that the IITs attract some of the most lucrative job offers in India. In addition, many students find it difficult to get used to life in a new town and handle responsibilities by themselves without support from family or friends. While most students fight the problems, a few wilt under pressure and commit suicide. At IIT-Kharagpur, two students committed suicide earlier this year. Other top institutes, too, have lost students to depression and stress.

Like the blackout project, IITs across the country have taken measures to tackle this depression, setting up creative centres for students to dance, sing, and play musical instruments or organising tree hugging sessions. The IITs also have counselling centres.

At Kharagpur, the students appear to be enjoying the “lights off” initiative, and more such activities are in the works.
The Rekhi Centre of Excellence for the Science of Happiness, the institute’s initiative to promote students’ well being, is helping out, too. It offers various courses, hosts regular workshops, and organises talks by researchers in the field.

“We hope that the courses will give them (students) deep insights into the theory and practice of happiness,” Priyadarshi Patnaik, faculty coordinator for the Rekhi Centre, said.


Asianet Newsable
In January, May and April this year, the faculty and students at IIT Kharagpur were faced with some really tragic news. On May 5, a fourth-year ...

Business Insider India
Just two days ago, the news of a depressed17-year-old boy - son of an IIT Bombay professor, committing suicide hit the national headlines. His suicide ...

The Asian Age
Mumbai: The recent suicide by the son of an IIT-B professor has prompted noted psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty to write a letter the faculty of the premier ...

Monday, June 19, 2017

Why Is It That Even the Few Women Who Get into the IITs, Don’t Want To Join? - Ladies Finger

IT Khargpur. Photo courtesy: Biswarup Ganguly via Wikimedia CC by 3.0.

In 2016, the number of women who qualified to study at IITs was 2,200 (out of 10,500 seats). Of the women who qualified, only a much lower number of women decided to join — just 830 women (about one-third) took up the seats. Now, in an attempt to get more women who qualify to actually join colleges, Economic Times has reported that at least five IITs are considering providing fee waivers for women students.

This came after IIT Mandi, in Himachal Pradesh, decided to approve this fee waiver, along with providing a scholarship of Rs 1000 to every woman student starting to study there this semester (it’ll also be given to existing students who pass the semester).

Just the 2016 statistics of the number of women who took up courses at IITs are indicative of the very few number of women students in engineering colleges — IIT Mandi itself, has just 30 women students out of 500 students studying B Tech. Now, Delhi, Varanasi, Mumbai, and Ropar are planning to follow in these footsteps. Economic Times reports that Ravinder Kaur, who teaches in IIT Delhi, said, “Women do not get a level playing field when it comes to coaching or even funding for engineering at IITs” (it’s usually the sons whose education is invested more heavily in). This, it seems, is an effort to address this.

From the students who qualified through the JEE Advanced exams this year, 14 percent are women. It also seems like it isn’t only a fee waiver that colleges are planning — Hindustan Times reports that a new website that acts as a help desk was launched on 12th June, to provide women with access to information about life on campus, and studying in the IITs. They aim to address JEE (advanced) data that showed that fewer women opted to join IITs outside their homes or close to home towns because their parents were worried about safety, providing information about all the hostel and residential options that the college provides.

We all know how there are extremely few women in science, technology, and engineering fields. This has always been the case. Even inside colleges, the educational pressures remain, and when added to pressures from family, there are painfully sad stories, like the recent death of Manjula Devak, an IIT Delhi scholar, where her father said she had committed suicide because of demands for dowry. But this new effort being put in on various fronts to address a gender gap in education itself seems to be a great step forward — hopefully it will also begin to address discrimination that women face on the campus too.

Unable to cope up with studies, IIT-Bombay professor’s son commits suicide - Hindustan Times

Mumbai city news: According to a suicide note, the boy could not cope with his studies, which led to his suicide
MUMBAI Updated: Jun 17, 2017 23:58 Ist

Shreya Bhandary 
Hindustan Times

His family stayed in the IIT-B campus(HT)

A 17-year-old Class 11 student, the son of a professor of Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B), allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself late on Friday night. His family stayed in the IIT-B campus.

The Powai police found a suicide note from the room. “The boy has mentioned in the suicide note that he was under pressure owing to his studies and could not cope up with that. We have registered a case of accidental death and sent the body for a post-mortem,” sadi ND Reddy, DCP, Zone X.

His parents also told the police that he had been depressed about his studies for the past few months. This is the third such suicide of a child of an IIT-B faculty reported on the campus in the last one year.

“The professor and his family recently moved from Chennai to Mumbai, and the boy was not very happy with the new environment. His studies were also affected and he was depressed,” said ND Reddy, DCP, Zone X.

In January this year, a 20-year-old student, the son of a faculty of IIT-B, stabbed himself to death after an altercation with his family members. 

In April last year, a 17-year-old daughter of a faculty had taken her life by jumping off a building in the campus.

Officials from IIT-B were unavailable for comments.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

IIT scholar Manjula Devak's suicide shows that in India, dowry is still a silent killer of women - First Post

Jun, 10 2017 13:43:57 IST

“It was a mistake to educate my daughter and send her to IIT. I should have saved money for her dowry instead.”

These words were uttered by the distraught father of Manjula Devak as he stood outside the mortuary inside which lay the body of his 28-year-old daughter — a bright PhD scholar from IIT Delhi. She had taken her own life.

So much for 'Beti Bachao Beti Padhao'.

Once again, the death of a young married woman had exposed the emptiness of such slogans in a society which still views women only as bringers of dowry. Not as sentient humans beings with lives, dreams and abilities of their own.

There was no suicide note, but Manjula’s parents spoke out about an aspect of her life which she had kept to herself.  The woman who posted carefree pictures of herself on Facebook and had published articles in reputed scientific journals on climate change and water management was also being harassed for dowry by her in-laws and jobless husband. They wanted her to get them Rs 20 lakhs from her father so that her husband could start his own business. Manjula’s parents also accused her in-laws and husband of beating their daughter in an attempt to force her to give up her studies and become a full-time housewife.

“They wanted her to forget about her PhD and go and cook and wash dishes for them in Baroda,” her father told the press bitterly.

Manjula, an educated and independent young woman, must have resisted all these pressures. She had been married for four years. When her husband lost his job, he had moved into her quarters on the campus. After a while, unable to tolerate his alcoholism and physical abuse, she sent him away as she was also worried about her own reputation on campus. Though her parents asked her to walk out, she stayed married because she didn’t want her family to be socially ostracised.

But something broke her finally and gave the push which sent her over the brink. And that something could well have been a renewed demand for dowry.

Dowry, dahej, jahez, varadhakshinai, stridhanam, daheri, yautuk, daheza… Call it by any name and it still remains a killer.

The Dowry Prohibition Act which we have had since 1961 has hardly made any impact on the scourge of dowry. If anything, dowry has taken stronger root across the country and even communities which were untouched before have now adopted the practice. Some are open about it. Some are coy. Some are in denial. But the bottom line is dowry is considered a “tradition” and so overtly or covertly it becomes the deciding factor in most marriages.

We now live in a society where girl fetuses are aborted because they have the potential of growing into women for whom their families will have to pay dowry… Where grown women are tortured or beaten within the four walls of their marital homes because they could not or would not satisfy their in-laws' dowry demands… Where women take their own lives because they are caught in a situation where they can neither live with their greedy in-laws nor go back to their birth families.

But it was not always like this. There is historical evidence to show that dowry as it is understood in its present form is a comparatively new phenomenon. In old patrilineal societies, the dowry a woman received at the time of her marriage was her share in her parental property. This was her parents’ way of ensuring that she was treated as an equal in her new family. The money, property or ornaments she received belonged to her. In matrilineal societies of the North East, parts of Southern India and in tribal societies the concept of dowry did not even exist. Some communities in fact, paid a bride price.

Today, every single community in our country has embraced dowry in one form or the other. Bride price where it exists, is a token amount. Even when there is no overt dowry demand, there is an expectation. When families speak of arranging a marriage with a girl from the same “social status”, that expectation is implicit.

Ornaments are not considered dowry, said the CPI legislator in Kerala whose daughter got married recently at Guruvayoor — weighed down with gold necklaces and gold bangles which went all the way up to her elbow. Responding to her critics, she said she had only done for her daughter what any parent would do…given her 58 sovereigns of gold. The rest of the gold had come from friends and relatives. The irony is that she is a senior official of a party which has always condemned giving dowry and lavish spending on weddings

How many women I know have been stripped of their jewellery even before the mehendi faded from their hands... And the money never goes to them. It is used to buy a scooter for the husband or pay his sister’s dowry. If the woman resists, she is physically abused. Her body after all was just the conduit for transferring wealth.

I remember a dowry death I investigated 25 years ago, where the young bride who was the daughter of a banker, was killed because all the money, ornaments and land deeds which she had been given as dowry was in a safe deposit locker and she refused to part with the key.

There is no limit to the demands the dowry takers make…apartments, plots of land, appliances, vehicles, finances for buying a medical seat, money to travel abroad or start a business venture. I once interviewed a senior software professional who was forced to build a palatial house for her in-laws and then was kicked out of it herself.

The belief that giving and receiving dowry is right and socially acceptable is deeply ingrained. The giving of dowry might have once been a voluntary act. Today it is an act of coercion. 

Families sink into deep debt trying to pay off dowry demands. Women garment factory workers, school teachers, nurses and call centre employees work hard to collect money to pay their own dowries because they believe that only then will they get “good” husbands. Ironically, the more educated and wealthy grooms demand higher dowries.  And many families believe that by paying higher dowries they will ensure their daughters’ status will go up in society.

Muslim communities have a token meher (bride price) as well as a more substantial jahez (dowry). The Syrian Christians euphemistically call dowry “share” and it can run into lakhs or crores depending on the social status of the family. In the IT industry, educated women pay huge dowries to marry men who are better educated than themselves and hold better jobs.
In North India, dowries have always been much larger and weddings more lavish than in the south. And it was there that doctors first advertised the sex determination test as a miraculous way of saving money!

“Pay Rs 5,000 now and save Rs 50,000 later,” was their slogan.
Today there are no girls left to pay dowry in women-starved areas of Punjab and Haryana and the men have to “buy” wives from tribal areas. Not that these women are treated better because a price was paid to acquire them. They are subjected to the same kind of abuse that a dowry-paying wife faces.
Dowry has become one of the largest silent killers of women. According to the National Crime Records Bureau data, around 25,000 women were either killed or committed suicide due to dowry harassment by their in-laws between 2012 and 2014. And 30,000 cases of dowry were registered during the same period of time.

Obviously this is just the very tip of the iceberg.  For every high profile dowry death, there are thousands which go unnoticed.  Dowry deaths are often passed off as cooking accidents, suicide due to ill health or psychiatric problems. Many families do not report harassment or even death fearing social stigma.
As long as we, as a society, continue to normalise dowry as something acceptable, and as long as we continue to feed our daughters into the dowry trap, nothing will change.

Published Date: Jun 10, 2017 01:43 pm | Updated Date: Jun 10, 2017 01:43 pm

Why The Suicide Of A Phd Student At IIT-Delhi Didn't Surprise Me _Huffington Post

Research scholars carry a heavier burden than most.

09/06/2017 8:43 AM IST | Updated 09/06/2017 1:19 PM IST
Engineer, blogger

When I first read the news of a 27-year old PhD student taking her own life at IIT-D, I felt tears prickle my eyes. I didn't know her personally, and yet I could feel the pain she might have felt, what might have compelled her to take this extreme step. I suddenly thought, "You know, this might have been me..." At that time, I didn't know that she was being harassed for dowry (as is being alleged by her parents), but I knew the kind of stress that research scholars at premier institutes are under, having been one myself. I will not make any comment about her personal life, as I'm not qualified to do that, but I definitely will highlight some issues faced by doctoral students, which, I first thought were the likely reasons for her suicide.

A study at Berkeley found that as many as 47% of PhD students are depressed at a time, compared to an average of 6.7% in the adult population.
Graduate students pursuing a doctorate degree pay a very heavy price for attaining that degree, and only someone who has been in the system can understand that. No one wants to talk about this price. It is just widely accepted in academia that this price must be paid. Why is it that the loss of a young, bright life does not shock us? Why this apathy? In my time as a research scholar, I have understood a few sad truths, and some driving factors that lead so many PhD students to depression and mental illness, and I've tried to deconstruct them. I really hope some important people are reading this, because there is a lot that needs to be addressed in our academic system. This attitude of acceptance and apathy towards mental illness in the academia has to change.

1. People with a higher IQ are more likely to get depressed
I'm going to go with the assumption that PhD scholars generally have a higher than normal IQ. While this high IQ is useful in obtaining good grades, it is also their curse. An article in Medical Daily claims that over 30 studies have linked high intelligence and mental illness. People with a higher IQ tend to overthink and overanalyse, and may also be highly emotional and sensitive. They do not take failure lightly, and tend to beat themselves up if things are not as perfect as they want them to be. A study at Berkeley found that as many as 47% of PhD students are depressed at a time, compared to an average of 6.7% in the adult population.

2. The age at which they do graduate studies
Most people I met at graduate school were aged between 24 to 30 years of age. In the prime of their youth, when other people their age are out and about climbing the ladder in their careers, dating, getting married, making babies, the research scholars are stuck in room full of scientific literature, unable to see the beauty of the world around them. They lose the best, most vital years of their life to research, and there is little they can do to recover from this loss. Many students, especially girls, are under tremendous pressure to get married and start a family. Some of them who do get married during this time now have a slew of new problems to deal with, grappling with a new marriage, or staying away from their spouse, in addition to the stress of being in a PhD program.

3. They are suddenly lost in a crowd of super-achievers
I would like to believe that people who pursue a PhD program at a premier institute have an illustrious academic profile (though exceptions abound). People who were toppers, gold medallists, best teachers in their past lives, who used to stand out in a crowd suddenly become lost among many such people. Their academic achievements are no longer a cause of wonder, and they must be exceptional in a group of super achievers to be able to stand out again.

How is a PhD student to feel good about himself when he is constantly taunted, "Even a BA pass clerk has a salary better than you!"

The atmosphere is that of critique, competition and secrecy and not an encouraging or transparent one. This is often a cause of immense distress and may make people feel like a failure, as if all they have achieved until now has been a fluke.

4. The inherent uncertainty of research
Research is inherently uncertain, which makes it extremely difficult for even the best minds. There is no guarantee that the problem that you are working on will have a solution. You could spend 10 years working on a problem unable to find a solution, but someone else might miraculously be coming up with results on a different problem every year. If your problem happens to be a hard one, you may be driven to a point where you no longer feel yourself to be competent or worthy of living. Your research problem becomes all consuming, and you are unable to see beyond the failure that you are facing in this moment.

5. The immense loneliness
Most PhD scholars lead extremely lonely lives because their research depends on their hard work. Don't get me wrong, I personally have forged some very deep, meaningful friendships in the years that I have spent as a research scholar, but I cannot say that I have been able to do them justice. I could hardly ever go out or enjoy with my friends like other normal people did. In a PhD program, you spend most of your time alone trying to crack the code, waiting for a miracle to happen, which will fetch you an international publication, and eventually your degree. You can't really make time for friends or family, which again adds to your stress.

6. Power lies in the hands of a few
In a PhD program, your supervisor(s) is all powerful. True, there is a committee in place, but it doesn't intervene unless there is a huge call of distress from the student. In case of failure, it is always the student's fault, and not his supervisor's.

Your research problem becomes all consuming, and you are unable to see beyond the failure that you are facing in this moment.

Consider this. On the one hand, you will constantly suffer from anxiety, if your supervisor is too tough, which may lead to a break down. On the other hand, if you get a supervisor who is too laidback or nice, you will find it extremely difficult to get your work done, again causing you to have a breakdown. If you are lucky, you will get a supervisor who is dedicated to research and determined to see you get your degree. And yes, abuse of power does happen. Just like it happens at any place where one person becomes all powerful. It may be 1% of people who indulge in this kind of stuff, but students suffer immensely if they have been assigned a supervisor from this category.

7. Lack of good, transparent counselling services
While most institutes offer counselling services, students are afraid to seek help. They fear that their grievances might get conveyed to their supervisor who is likely the driving force behind their anxiety. They don't have a reliable shoulder to cry on, and no one they can open up to when they need it the most. Many foreign universities offer aid and professional counselling services to their graduate students free of cost. Such services, with proper confidentiality clauses must also be made available to graduate students in India.

8. The very poor financial condition of a research scholar
Research scholars might be the most qualified but the least paid in their age group. How is a PhD student to feel good about himself when he is constantly taunted, "Even a BA pass clerk has a salary better than you!", or "The brightest child of my family is earning the least amount of money," or, "No girl will marry a guy who earns 18K a month! How will you feed your children?"

9. The apathy of academia to mental illness
I find that depression is treated as "normal" in academia. Even those who are not in academia are accepting of the fact that people who are in a PhD program will go "mad" due to studying too much. This attitude needs to change. The suicide of a bright, young scholar must shock and surprise us.

Doing a PhD is hard enough. If, along with this, a young woman is facing mental, physical and emotional torture for a reason as 18th-century as dowry, I can only imagine how broken she must have been. It is only when a person sees utter hopelessness, do they feel like death might be a better option. My heart goes out to her family, and to the families of all bright, young scholars, who took death as a route of escape.

To anyone grappling with their PhD and/or personal issues, I want to tell you that this will get better. That you will do wonderfully in life. Nothing is worth taking your life, neither studies, nor a cheating boyfriend, nor an abusive husband. 

There are much better things that need your attention—your health, your family, your spiritual journey. That you will emerge stronger and a winner. Please, for heaven's sake do not allow your hopelessness to consume you. You are loved and wanted. Your life has immense purpose. Please don't give up on it.

Friday, June 9, 2017

An Emotional Support System Started by an IIT Alumnus to Stop Suicide - FANTOOSY

By Aswathy Sachin - March 17, 2016

An Emotional Support System Started by an IIT Alumnus to Stop Suicide:
Almost all people in our country are the victims of depression to a great extent. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), Indians are among the worst hit by depression, and are committing suicides. In order to give an ending to this worst situation an IIT alumnus has started an emotional support system named By IIT alumnus could stop suicide attempts to a certain limit. The name of the IIT alumnus is Richa Singh. paves a platform for youngsters for discussing their problems with qualified and veteran persons, in obscurity.
Problems among those who have sought help range from stress due to bad performance in competitive exams like CAT, IAS, etc. and relationship issues, anxiety during exam preparation, and the feeling of rejection due to working in a field they don’t enjoy, reported The Huffington Post.

Image Credits: The New Indian Express

According to a 2015 report in The Economic Times, stress is part and parcel of college life, but for some students at the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), it can get overwhelming. Everything adds up: daunting academic loads, struggling to keep up after a lifetime of being an overachiever and the burden of expectations from family, friends and peers.

In 2014, the IITs saw an estimated 14 student suicides, probably the highest ever across these elite colleges. The inability to cope – often spiraling into depression – has haunted several students. “The world creates artificial expectations. There’s peer pressure, family pressure, societal pressure.
Unfortunately, for some students, their ambition is centered around pay packages. To their mind, their success will be judged only around their pay packages and placements,” said Indranil Manna, director, IIT Kanpur.
This is where Richa’s involvement plays a vital role. Anonymity helps, says Richa. “We all face problems, stress and anxiety at some point in our life but mostly we are not willing to talk about these, fearing social implications, being judged and for the fear of being judged. We are confident that technology combined with empathy and right kind of experts will go a long way in helping people going through a various emotional and mental challenges and equipping them to better deal with it,” says Richa in a report in Business Standard.
Your DOST, is available as a free service both through its web portal and mobile app, according to Inc 42, has close to 70,000 users, which is growing, at about 40% month-on-month basis.
According to psychiatrist Sidney Cobb social support was a subjective sensation in which the individual feels, “That he is cared for and loved. That he is esteemed and valued; that he belongs to a network of communication and mutual obligation.”
In this sense Richa is doing a wonderful job. She is offering a wholehearted help to the people suffering from depression and is always ready to solve their problems at any time. really acts as a reassuring system to needy persons. Well-done Richa and her team!!

Monday, June 5, 2017

IIT suicide: In-laws booked for dowry death - TNN

TNN | Jun 4, 2017, 02.29 AM IST

New Delhi: Three days after a 27-year-old research scholar allegedly committed suicide in her room at IIT-Delhi's Nalanda Apartment, police have booked her husband and in-laws for dowry death. They are also probing claims by victim Manjula Devak's family members that her in-laws had tortured her physically and mentally, which allegedly drove her to take the extreme step.

Police said they were analysing WhatsApp and Facebook chats Manjula had with her family members, her husband and in-laws. Cops claim to have found a few "disturbing" pictures on her husband's Facebook chats. They suspect these pictures caused her a great deal of emotional turmoil. 

Her family members told TOI that Manjula had tried committing suicide even in September 2016, but no police case was registered at that time. "We counselled her not to repeat the same mistake," said Manoj Kumar Devak, her father. 

He said that Manjula was convinced and even regretted having taken the step, but of late, she had been tensed because her husband, Ritesh Virha, had started sending her photographs, showing him with another woman.

Police are trying to ascertain under what circumstances were those pictures and messages sent and received. 

Top Comment
False case of dowry death!!
Law misused again by parents of dead woman!
Raise Your Voice

A case under sections and 304-B (dowry death ) and 498-A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) of IPC has been registered, said Chinmoy Biswal, additional DC- I (south).

Manjula had committed suicide on Tuesday night, days before she was to submit her PhD thesis.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Behind the suicide of an IIT scholar in Delhi, a struggle between new ambitions and old restraints - SCROLL.IN

Manjula Devak and the limits of the Indian woman’s dream.

Published 10 hours ago

Her Facebook photos reveal a young woman who liked to travel, dress up, pose and smile. You see her patting her hair and sticking a hip out like the Marilyn Monroe wax statue behind her; in a business suit with San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge as the backdrop; in a black, leather jacket and pink scarf in Las Vegas; in a skirt at a Delhi mall; in oversize sunglasses and picnic hat at a Mughal monument; and as a glowing bride in a green-and-gold-bordered pink silk saree, dangling gold earrings and armloads of bangles.

Manjula Devak, 28, appeared to be living the Indian dream, but this world of travel and self expression was, in large part, made possible by the considerable academic achievements of a girl who grew up in provincial Bhopal.

Devak’s world expanded dramatically when she was admitted to the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. She became a civil engineer, and in the course of her PhD research, she published papers in three reputed international journals and two books chapters. Three more papers are currently under scrutiny, her supervisor CT Dhanya, told me over email, explaining how Devak was the topper of the water resources engineering master’s class of 2013 at IIT Delhi. “She completed her doctoral research in a short period, while still making significant scientific contributions, which will remain with the research fraternity for decades to come,” said Dhanya.

Devak’s latest paper caught my attention because it explored a topic I follow, climate change. The paper predicted an alarming decrease in recharge water in the Ganga river basin over 79 years between 2021 and 2100, with melting snow spurring a rise in winter precipitation and extreme offseason rain events. The paper was published in an international journal in May – the month Devak hanged herself at her flat in IIT-Delhi.

When the police broke open the door on May 29, they found her hanging from a fan. There was no suicide note, and it wasn’t clear why Devak hanged herself. What was clear was that her death represented the clashing worlds of old and new India, and, so, from celebrating a young woman in the prime of her life, this column must now turn to the darker impulses of society that clash with the dreams of women who strive to break free.

(Photo credit: Manjula Devak/Facebook).

Dowry demands
Outside a morgue in India’s capital, Devak’s father told a Hindustan Times reporter: “It was a mistake to educate my daughter and send her to IIT. I should have saved all the money for her dowry.”

It appeared that behind her achievements, Devak’s life was shackled to India’s darkest traditions. She had been living apart from her husband Ritesh – he and his family were hustled from the mortuary door by Devak’s family – for a year, and her mother accused Ritesh and his parents of demanding a dowry of about Rs 20 lakh. With this money, the Hindustan Times quoted her mother as saying, Ritesh wanted his wife to quit her research and help him start a business. Could Devak not divorce her husband? Her mother had told her to go ahead, but Devak apparently was worried about the effect this might have on her family’s reputation. Why did this young woman on the way to her dream marry him anyway, when she was only 24? Said her father: “Because their horoscopes matched perfectly.”

The exploration of Devak’s life is important because millions of young women now set out on similar journeys, during which many are visited by envy, harassment, hate and worse, particularly from men – within the family and without. Many women overcome, and many succumb. Many women breach boundaries set for them, and some, as Devak’s story indicates, find some barriers too formidable to cross. I do not know what her feelings were about early marriage and horoscopes, but she did agree to the marriage, and in her wedding photos, she is smiling.

Many women achievers live and are, perhaps, happy within the bounds of Indian tradition, but most are either brought up to agree or find they have little choice in the matter. The old India and the new live cheek by jowl. If ambitious Indian women want their freedom and manage to find a path to their dreams, compromise is common. Devak appears to have followed that path.

(Photo credit: Manjula Devak/Facebook).

Women in India
On a recent trip to the US, I was struck by the confident body language of young Indian women who filled the business district of Jersey City, a suburb of New York that teems with Indians. Many of these women feel unshackled and free when they live in the West. My cousin, a single woman who divorced her husband, told me she missed home food and her family back home, but felt the weight of intrusiveness into her personal life. “I come across the ‘loose divorced woman’ attitude even here [in the US] from Indian men mainly,” she said. “It’s diluted and cloaked... but they carry those attitudes everywhere.”
It is not my case that every woman in India is held back – indeed, a minority live life on their own terms – but physical or mental restraints hold back the overwhelming majority.

Few Indian women with Devak’s qualifications and marital status manage to break those restraints. No more than 27% of India’s women work, the lowest among BRICS nations, and in the group of G-20 nations, only Saudi Arabia does worse. The Indian conundrum is that as the numbers of women in schools and colleges rise, the number of those at work drop. Over seven years ending 2012, India’s most educated women dropped out of its workforce at a rate faster than other women. Devak was among the privileged few who defied statistics and tradition, contributed to India’s intellectual heft and pursued her dreams. Her death indicates the limits placed on those dreams.

Samar Halarnkar is editor,, a data-driven, public-interest journalism non-profit.

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Father of Ph.D. student, who committed suicide in Delhi campus, says it was a mistake to send his daughter to IIT, should have saved money for dowry - ZEE News

Manjula Devak was found hanging from a ceiling fan in her room at 7:38 pm in Nalanda Apartments in the IIT-Delhi campus on Tuesday.

By Zee Media Bureau | Last Updated: Thursday, June 1, 2017 - 12:43

New Delhi: Awaiting his daughter's body outside a hospital's mortuary, the father of Manjula Devak, who committed suicide under mysterious circumstances in the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi campus on Tuesday, said on Wednesday that it was a mistake to educate her.
Manjula was found hanging from a ceiling fan in her room at 7:38 pm in Nalanda Apartments in the IIT campus on Tuesday.
Manjula Devak, a Ph.D. student in water resources, had tied the knot with Ritesh Virha in 2013, but the couple had been living separately for more than a year now.

While no suicide note was found from the flat, Manjula's family alleged that her in-laws were not in favour of her pursuing higher studies. They also accused her in-laws, who reside in Bhopal, of demanding Rs 20-25 lakh dowry. However, they are not sure what led the 27-year-old to end her life.

Talking to Hindustan Times on Wednesday, the father said: “It was a mistake to educate my daughter and send her to IIT. I should have saved all the money for her dowry.”

“We got our daughter married early because their horoscopes had matched perfectly,” HT quoted her father as saying.

Manjula’s mother Seema alleged that Ritesh was forcing her daughter to leave her studies and begin a business with him.
“After quitting jobs in Delhi and Mumbai, Ritesh stayed with her at the campus apartment for about a year,” Seema told the daily.

“He was troubling Manjula to get around Rs 20-25 lakh to start his business. I asked my daughter if she wanted a divorce but she was worried about the family’s reputation,” she added.
Manjula, a civil engineer, had earlier worked in the US but returned to join IIT Delhi in 2011.

Her family members have recorded their statement in front of a sub-divisional magistrate.

Manjula's friends have also recorded their statement in front of the SDM.

Police have seized her laptop and are scanning her calls detail records.

Should’ve saved for dowry instead of IIT, says father of PhD scholar found dead - Hindustan Times

The 28-year-old research scholar was found hanging from the ceiling fan in her room on campus on Tuesday evening.
DELHI Updated: Jun 02, 2017 12:04 Ist

Hindustan Times, New Delh

Manjula Devak’s mother, Seema (left), accused the scholar’s husband of forcing her to quit studies and start a business with him.(HT Photo)

“It was a mistake to educate my daughter and send her to IIT. I should have saved all the money for her dowry,” said the father of a PhD scholar who was found hanging from a ceiling fan on the Delhi campus on Tuesday evening.

Outside the AIIMS mortuary on Wednesday afternoon, 28-year-old Manjula Devak’s parents waited for doctors to complete the post-mortem and take their daughter’s body home. Less than 24 hours ago, at around 7.38pm, police had broken open the door of Manjula’s flat at Nalanda apartments at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) to find the research scholar hanging from the fan. There was no forced entry, suggesting that prima facie it was a suicide. She was last seen on the campus on Monday afternoon and had last spoken to her mother on Sunday.
Though the family accused Manjula’s husband Ritesh of demanding Rs 20-25 lakh dowry, they are unsure what prompted the young woman to end her life on Tuesday. Her parents refused to let Ritesh and his relatives stand outside the mortuary.
Hindustan Times could not speak to Ritesh or his family. The police too have launched a preliminary inquiry and are yet to register an FIR. The allegations levelled by Manjula’s family are yet to be established.
The couple’s marriage had been arranged in 2013 but they had been living separately for over a year now. “We got our daughter married early because their horoscopes had matched perfectly,” her father said.
Manjula’s mother Seema accused Ritesh of forcing her to quit her studies and start a business with him. “After quitting jobs in Delhi and Mumbai, Ritesh stayed with her at the campus apartment for about a year,” Seema told Hindustan Times.
“He was troubling Manjula to get around Rs 20-25 lakh to start his business. I asked my daughter if she wanted a divorce but she was worried about the family’s reputation,” said Seema, who works at a polytechnic college in Bhopal.

Manjula had joined IIT Delhi in 2011. She completed her MTech (civil engineering) and was pursuing her PhD. Police said a sub divisional magistrate is enquiring into Manjula’s death and he will summon her husband and in-laws for investigation.
One of Manjula’s colleagues, who did not wish to be identified, refused to believe social media theories that academic pressure led to her suicide. “Her PhD guide was very happy with her. She has published four articles till date. We know there is academic stress but Manjula was doing fine.”

Police are yet to register an FIR. An SDM inquiry is ordered if a woman dies within seven years of her marriage. Additional deputy commissioner of police (south) Chinmoy Biswal said, “We are awaiting the SDM’s report.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

IIT-D PhD Scholar’s Family Alleges In-Laws Troubled Her for Dowry - QUINT

IIT-D PhD Scholar’s Family Alleges In-Laws Troubled Her for Dowry

The Quint

The family members of 27- year-old PhD scholar Manjula Devak, who allegedly committed suicide at the IIT-Delhi campus on Tuesday, have claimed that her in-laws used to trouble her. According to the police, Devak's family have claimed that the deceased’s in-laws were not in favour of her pursuing higher studies and had also demanded dowry.

Devak’s family members have recorded their statement in front of a sub-divisional magistrate (SDM). Her friends have also recorded their statements in front of the SDM. The police have seized Devak’s laptop and are scanning her call records.

Devak, a final year student in water resources committed suicide under mysterious circumstances, and was found hanging from a ceiling fan in her room around 7.40 pm in Nalanda Apartments in the IIT campus, Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police Chinmoy Biswal said.

Devak had married Ritesh Virha in 2013 and lived with her husband and in-laws in Bhopal. The cause of the PhD student’s suicide is yet to be known as no suicide note has been found, said the police.

(With inputs from PTI.)

IIT student found dead in her hostel room - The Hindu

IIT student found dead in her hostel room

NEW DELHI, MAY 31, 2017 01:18 IST

Suicide suspected; no note recovered

A Ph.D scholar allegedly committed suicide in her hostel room at the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi campus here, the police said on Tuesday.

No suicide note has been recovered.

Police said the 27-year-old student, Manjula Devak, was found hanging from the ceiling fan by a police team in the morning.

“We received a PCR call at 7.38 a.m. A police team was dispatched and we found her body hanging in room number 413 in the Nalanda Apartment,” said a senior police officer.

Police said Ms. Devak was a final-year Water Resources student and was married.
Her husband Ritesh Virha and family members, residing in Bhopal, have been informed.

“We are investigating all possible reasons behind her decision to take the extreme step since no suicide note was found on her person or from the scene. The Vasant Vihar police station is investigating the matter,” the officer added

IIT-Delhi scholar hangs herself on campus, no suicide note found - Hindustan Times

Manjula Devak, 28, a PhD scholar, was found hanging from the ceiling fan of her room at Nalanda Apartment. She worked in the US for sometime but returned to study at IIT Delhi. Manjula lived in the apartment with her husband and family members.
DELHI Updated: May 31, 2017 17:04 Ist

Hindustan Times

IIT Delhi research scholar Manjula Devak had worked in the US and got married in 2013.(Facebook photo)

A research scholar at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi allegedly committed suicide in her room on Tuesday evening. Delhi Police said Manjula Devak (28) was found hanging from the ceiling fan of her room at Nalanda Apartment on the campus. The police received a call around 7.45 pm from a friend after which a PCR van reached the spot and took her to a nearby hospital where she was declared brought dead.

Manjula, a civil engineer pursuing a PhD in water resources, had earlier worked in the US but returned to join IIT Delhi. Originally from Indore, Manjula lived in the apartment with husband Ritesh Virha. He was in Indore at the time at the time of the incident. No suicide note was found in her room.

Neighbours said that Manjula was last seen on Monday night. Her friends told the police that they were alarmed after all phone calls made to Manjula went unanswered. Once at her apartment, they found it locked from inside. They later informed the police who broke open the door and found Manjula hanging.

One of the friends told the police that she did not suspect anything wrong with her. Police were told that she looked happy and had recently submitted a paper. Police are now waiting for the report of a post mortem examination, which will be conducted on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the police have seized Manjula’s laptop and cell phone. “ We will check the call data records and inform the SDM. The SDM will ask her family members to join investigation,” said an officer while adding that Manjula got married to Ritesh in 2013.

SDM has to be roped in by the police in such cases if a deceased had been married for less than seven years.

Though the reason for the alleged suicide is not known yet, IITs have faced criticism for failing to cut stress on students, which has led them to take extreme steps in the past.

In May this year, a 19-year-old student at the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi (IIT) allegedly jumped off from the fourth floor of Vidhyanchal Hostel and suffered multiple fractures. Nitish Kumar Purti, an Engineering Physics student had joined IIT in 2016. Police said that he was depressed as he was forced to take up the course and could not cope with pressure.

A few days earlier, a third-year chemical engineering student, Jitesh Sharma, was found dead on a terrace of a hostel in IIT Bombay. He left behind a suicide note which, police said, suggested he was under depression.

IIT-Delhi scholar commits suicide in hostel - TNN

TNN | Updated: May 31, 2017, 11.47 AM IST

NEW DELHI: A 29-year-old research scholar from the IIT allegedly committed suicide on Tuesday night by hanging from the ceiling fan in her hostel room inside the campus. Police have recovered no suicide note.

Officials say that the woman, Manila Devak, was in the final year of pursuing her PhD. She has been residing at the Nalanda hostel at the campus. 

Top Comment
It is very common in PhD for girl scholars that often their guide ask for sexual favour at the last stage when the scholar is about to get the degree. After so much of labour and dedication many sensible scholar can not stand such situation and commit suicide. I still bet this could be the reason for her suicide. A proper enquiry would reveal the truth. Having said that there may be other reasons of depression as well.
Hridoy Baruah

Police had received a call around 8pm about a suicide at the hostel from the warden. Another hostel resident gone to visit Devak and found her body.

Though the apparent cause of suicide was unclear, cops suspect depression over her studies to be the reason. Her husband and in-laws stay in Bhopal and have been informed about the incident. The body has been sent for an autopsy to the AIIMS mortuary and an inquest is being conducted under section 174 of CrPC.